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BRICS Plus 6: a perspective from agriculture

This past week South Africa hosted the BRICS Summit. CGA [Citrus Growers Association] attended the BRICS Business Forum ...

Written by Justin Chadwick, an excerpt from From the Desk of the CEO

This past week South Africa hosted the BRICS Summit. CGA [Citrus Growers Association] attended the BRICS Business Forum – hats off to the organisers. Accreditation the day before the event was hassle-free, done efficiently, and with a smile. With 1 500 delegates this was no mean feat. Road closures were minimal and the men and ladies in blue were in abundance – directing people and vehicles with great cheer and politeness; and many blue light brigades as Ministers and Heads of State vied to be the most important.

The BRICS Business Forum was an eye-opener; in the past, these fora were dominated by discussions on energy and minerals. The Sandton event was dominated by agriculture – given the big rural population and importance of agriculture in the BRICS nations, agriculture should, and did, take center stage. The outcomes of the Business Forum have been adopted and delivered to the Heads of State. Important for the fruit industries is a focus on tariffs and attention to phytosanitary issues. Linking business people was a priority – with discussions on air linkages between the BRICS nations, visa-free entry, and a move to dealing in own currencies.

Within BRICS, South Africa is seen as a proxy for Africa and represents the wishes and priorities of the African continent. There was a lot of discussion on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement – and how Africa will be connected in the future.

Probably the biggest announcement from the Summit is the addition of six new countries to the partnership – thank goodness it is referred to as BRICS PLUS SIX rather than BRICSAEEISU. While there is a lot of commentary on the geopolitical impact of this change, let’s unpack the impact on the southern African citrus industry:

  • For southern hemisphere citrus the inclusion of Argentina adds another significant lemon exporting country into the mix. For African citrus the inclusion of Egypt adds a significant orange producer and exporter into the mix.
  • In terms of export destinations for southern African citrus BRICS already has the number 2 (China) and number 4 (Russia) in the fold; the addition of UAE brings in number 5 and Saudi Arabia number 8. In total over 600 000 tonnes of South African citrus is exported to these BRICS+ countries – 30% of total exports.
  • In terms of potential markets, it was not long ago that South Africa exported 45 000 tonnes of fruit to Iran, in 2022 it was zero. There could be a possibility of reviving the citrus trade with Iran.

There will always be debates about the merits of being part of BRICS. Although the initial reason for such a formation was to challenge the existing world order – membership must start to benefit the people in these nations. These summits need to go beyond talk shows and deliver tangible benefits for those who pay the taxes.

Congratulations to the organisers and all those involved with the agenda. Special mention of Wandile Sihlobo, who presented the case for South African agriculture succinctly and objectively. He has a grasp of what is needed to stimulate inter BRICS trade, and the ability to convey the message in a deliberate and non-threatening manner.

Relevant Agribook pages include “Citrus Fruit” and “Exporting

Photo by Jacques Nel on Unsplash